How does Fast Track Work

In exchange for the expedited considerations of implementing legislation, Congress retains a central role before and during the negotiating processes and retains an equally important role in determining how to implement trade agreements. Requests for fast track have always included extensive notification and consultation requirements for the President with Congress and with private sector advisory committees. In every trade agreement negotiated under fast track, Congress has been an active participant in identifying negotiating objectives, monitoring the actual negotiations, and drafting implementation legislation.

To apply fast track to a trade agreement, whether sectoral, bilateral or multilateral, the President must notify Congress in advance of his intention to sign such an agreement. For most previous grants, the advance notice required was 90 days; for the Uruguay Round, the notice requirement was set at 120 days. Even before the President signals his intention to enter into an agreement, the private sector advisory committees are required to report to both Congress and the President on their views as to whether the agreement meets U.S. negotiating objectives. For bilateral trade agreements, the Congress must be given advance notice of the President's intent to begin negotiations. During the next 60 legislative days, either the House Ways and Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee can vote to deny fast track for the proposed agreement.

Once the negotiations have been concluded and the President has signed it, the Congress and the Administration begin a period of extensive discussions on drafting legislation. This process, reflecting the growing complexity of trade agreements, has involved an increasing number of committees of jurisdiction and interested Congressional members. The President is required to spell out precisely how he intends to use his existing regulatory authority in implementing the agreement. Congress retains the right to vote down an agreement if, after consultation, it still finds the package unacceptable.

Additional Congressional prerogatives include special procedures for revoking fast track if the President fails to meet the consultation requirements. Where fast track authority has been granted with the possibility of an extension, either House retains the right to disapprove an extension provided either the House Ways or Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee have reported out &extension disapproval Congress must be given advance notice of the President

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